Jobs That No Longer Exist


Recently I came across a list of occupations that some experts say will be obsolete in the next ten years.  Occupations on the line include postal workers, farmers, ranchers (yikes, we’re talking cowboys here!), cooks and cashiers.

Self-service checkouts are slowly taking over the stores and restaurants in my area.  You can even check out your own books at my local library, and meter readers have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  All this got me to thinking about occupations from the past that no longer exist.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

Bone man public domain
Bone man public domain

Rag and Boneman

Following the great buffalo slaughter of the 1800s, bleached bones covered the prairies.  It didn’t take long for homesteaders to figure out what the real money crop was.  Bones were used for cosmetics, glue, lubricants and sugar cane filters. During the height of the bone trade, eastern processing plants purchased an estimated billion-dollars’ worth of bones.    


Icemen made daily rounds in wagons, carts or trucks delivering ice for ice boxes.

Knocker-Upper (it’s not what you think)

How did workers get to work on time before alarm clocks?  A knocker-upper banged on doors or windows to wake people at the appointed time. Some used peashooters aimed at second story windows.  It makes you wonder who woke the knocker-uppers?

Gandy Dancer

Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia
Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia public domain

This jobs sounds more fun than it was.  Railroad workers or gandy dancers, as they were called, laid thousands of miles of railroad tracks across the U.S.

Leech Collector

Bloodletting was a popular method by which to treat disease or infection. Doctors used millions of leeches during the 19th century and let’s face it; someone had to collect those suckers.


Shyster lawyer (some people might argue that this profession still exists)

Wikipedia public domain


These workers lit gas streetlights with the aid of a long pole. In some communities, the lamplighter also served as night watchman.


Lectors were hired by factories to educate workers and eradicate boredom. They did this by reading newspapers and even novels aloud. Should a lector read anything too radical or controversial, he could expect to be tossed out on his ear.  Hmm. Sounds like some college campuses today.




Do any of you remember milkmen?  What about gas station attendants who used to pump gas, clean windows and check the tires?  It wasn’t that long ago that people came to the door selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners. Most of us could probably do without the salesmen, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone fill our tanks on occasion?  I would also miss not having my mail delivered, and can’t imagine a world without cowboys.  What about you?  What profession or occupation do you or will you miss?

                              Left at the Altar

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.





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33 thoughts on “Jobs That No Longer Exist”

  1. Well, I surely remember milkmen, Fuller Brush Salesmen, gas station attendants, and believe it or not we still have vacuum cleaner salesmen come door to door (you have to be careful when opening the door to them because some have tossed in a handful of dirt so they can come in to vacuum it up.

    I’m not sure exactly what I would miss if it was taken away…maybe a landline phone? Oh, and yeah, I too would miss having our mail delivered. I’m not a big fan of those types of changes.

    Cindy W.

    • Hi Cindy, you sure do have some nervy vacuum cleaner salesmen! I kind of like having my mail delivered, too. Speaking of phones, I also miss dialing a number and having a real person answer. I’ve been on the phone for a solid week talking to a robot that assures me it can understand full sentences.

  2. I miss going to the gas station and having the windows washed ad OK checked, air put in tire if needed and nevertnevert needing to et out of thed car. Milkmen I’ve only heard about. I’ve grew up going to ther PO everyday for mail but when I moved 4 yes ago its now delivered and I find it different but very nice.

  3. I would love to have the gas station attendant back again. Even now you don’t have a person to bring your groceries to your car much anymore. I loved that.

  4. Hi Margaret,

    I can understand why some jobs are going by the wayside, but cooks? Say it isn’t so! That just can’t be! I love going out to eat.

    For about two years I lived in a town of 1200 that didn’t have a mailman and I had to go to the post office to pick up my mail. With small children, it was a nice walk in good weather. But in winter, it was a bit of a pain.

    I sure don’t miss door-to-door salesman!

    Thanks for an interesting post!

  5. I live in Oregon an we don’t have self service gas stations. People fill our tank, but don’t check oil or clean windows.
    Our mail is delivered to a box at the end of our short driveway.
    I also don’t miss door-to-door salesman.

  6. I do indeed remember milkmen and gas station attendants. We also had a bread man who also sold cupcakes and other pastries. He was the only person I can recall that our border collie didn’t like, so… she always got a pastry treat from the man!–an example of why, I guess, border collies are considered so smart. LOL

    Another occupation that is (long) gone is rat catcher. The main hero in Ivory’s “The Proposition” is one, there’s one in Eliot’s “Mill in the Floss,” and of course the Pied Piper of Hamelin, as well as Mayhew’s “London Labour and the Poor.” Victorian times, but I thought it worth mentioning as jobs that have gone away. I think we still have chimney sweeps though without using children.

    I too would miss having my mail delivered (we’re out in the country), I’m holding onto my land line for all it’s worth which is great in power outages because it still works! and oh would I like a gas station attendant to clean my windows and check my tires.

    I REALLY miss talking to real people when I call too many business where you get a recording and have to listen to all the options go on and on. My strategy these days is to keep saying “customer service” to any and all questions and most of the time I get a real person. It’s not 100% but it works most of the time.

    In a similar vein, I hate planned obsolescence and the constant consumer aspect of it–both for spending but more for all the junk we keep piling on the planet. I’ll admit a couple of things we’ve done in this area. First, we don’t get a new car very often. When I buy I get Mazdas that run forever, my current one being 16 years old and still running like a champ. I already said we have a land line. I have the same TV in my bedroom that we got in the ’80s before appliances were engineered for short working lives. I don’t buy continually upgraded e-reader or phone devices. Well, you get the idea. Oh, my stove and fridge are 30 years old and going strong. Yes, maybe I’m a kook but I can’t stand how we’re trashing the planet for decorator reasons or having the latest whatever. Hope this wasn’t too much of a rant.

    P.S. I thought of another environmental action we take. We don’t mow our grass every week rather it needs it or now. We save gas, gas fumes in the environment, and slighting longer grass is good for the earth’s soil and the critters–like worms who turn it over but die out in scalped yards. Okay. Our John Deere tractor is 15 years old. Okay, I admit it: I’m a kook.:)

  7. Thank you, Margaret, for all of this interesting information. Several of those occupations were new to my continuing education!

    Thankfully, I still have a husband who pumps my gas. I do miss the gas station attendants. Having grown up in a small town, I learned that those guys gave the best directions and good tips on car care as well as telling very corny jokes (at least for the women folks!) Now it’s pay at the pump and no one checks the oil (including me) or the tires. AND there is on one to bring Christmas treats and no more free calendars.

    I do so like real people.

  8. Oh, Margaret, I’m laughing out loud at knocker-upper. I have used lamplighters and pettifoggers in stories but so many of these are new to me.

    Oh yes, we had a milkman when our kids were little. That doesn’t seem too long ago, gulp. And I remember my dad telling me at times, the gas station attendant didn’t need to “check under the hood.” But wash the windshield, yes, yes, yes! And I do remember the Fuller Brush Salesman coming to the door, my mom’s John Hancock insurance rep (I actually thought he was John Hancock!) and the Avon Lady.

    I am a tree hugger for sure but that doesn’t stop me from buying clothes I don’t need. Sheesh.Now, I’m forewarning future editors, I am gonna use The Knocker-Upper” for a book title.

    (p.s. I taught English for 20 years…nobody diagrams sentences anymore LOL. But try me out on an algebra equation, sheesh. No way.)

    Thanks for a great post, filly sister! xoxoxox

    • Hi Tanya, can you imagine your daughter coming home and saying she’s dating a knocker-upper?

      I remember the Fuller Brush man coming to the door. The cleaner used to come to the door, too, to pick up clothes that needed cleaning. You hardly needed a car back then, because everything (and everyone) showed up on your doorstep. As Edith and Archie used to say, “Those were the days.”

      Take care, filly sister. Sending lots of hugs your way.

  9. Such a fun post, Margaret! I miss telephone operators. I liked calling for the time or information in a city.

    When I was in NYC, I decided to go to Mood Fabrics (being a Project Runway fan). The store is not at street level. You have to go up in an elevator and there’s a nice man in that elevator who takes you to your floor. I haven’t seen an elevator operator since I was a kid.

    • Hi Jeannie, elevator operators! My goodness, I haven’t thought about them for years.

      I vaguely remember that we used to call the telephone operator for the time and weather. Whenever I was alone as a kid I always felt safe because I knew that all I had to do was pick up the phone and I’d hear a friendly voice.

  10. I lived across the street from a gas station growing up. I miss an attendant pumping gas and washing the windshield.

  11. I remember the milkman. Actually my husband’s uncle and his 2 sons were milkmen and delivered until about 5 years ago, (and only then because the one cousin died.) There are book salesmen still making the rounds, only now they are selling religious sets. I remember when they switched over to pumping your own gas. My mother-in-law refused to do it. For those who don’t want to have to pump their own, Oregon and New Jersey do not allow you to pump your own gas.
    I do not understand how they think farmers and ranchers will disappear. Unless we all grow our own food or live on “food pills,” where do they think we will get food to eat.
    The mail situation is interesting. As the government gives the post office problems by changing rules and making it harder for mail handlers to do their jobs (yes I do have relatives that work for the post office), few people realize what is going on. The post office must deliver to all addresses. UPS and FED EX do not. These two companies cut their costs for remote delivery by dropping their packages off at the post office and having them deliver. It costs more to ship by these two carriers and the post office still delivers. I sincerely hope they don’t privatize the system.

    • Hi Patricia,
      That’s a good question about farmers and ranchers.From what I’ve read, robots are already replacing humans in agriculture. They already have robot cowboys to round up cattle. Sad but true.

      The mail situation is interesting. Thank you for sharing.

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